Brand Color Theory and Practice - Part 3: Color Meanings and Color Psychology

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Posted Oct 28, 2011
Susan Gunelius

Your brand color palette can have an immediate and profound effect on the people who see it. That effect varies by color and often by the cultural and regional backgrounds of those people. Even the hue or intensity of a color can change the way people perceive it and how they feel about it. In other words, choosing your brand color palette is not a task to be taken lightly.

brand color theory

There are many people who study color psychology, color for art therapy, color marketing, and many other forms of color theory and practice that apply to everything from how a room is painted to how colors are used on a sign.

That's why there is a reason why Las Vegas is a city filled with red neon. Red has been shown to stimulate people's senses and raise people's blood pressure. Research shows that people will make riskier bets and gamble more when they're seated in a room filled with red lights rather than blue lights. Blue creates a calming feeling and physiological reaction, which is exactly the opposite of how a casino wants customers to feel.

Color Psychology

While many people think of color as a designer's trick, scientists have actually studied the effects of color on behavior and feelings for a very long time. They've found that color can cause real emotional and physical changes in a person.

color splash

Colors can elicit feelings of anxiety or calmness, and they can evoke happy, sad, or angry emotions. Colors can increase the feeling of warmth or the feeling of hunger and as you learned in the Las Vegas example above, colors can affect our blood pressure.

Ancient Egyptians and Chinese cultures practiced chromotherapy, a holistic healing treatment still used in forms of alternative medicine today where patients are exposed to colors in order to affect moods, influence emotions, and prompt physiological reactions in what is known as chromodynamics.

Color Wheel Pro offers a great look into how colors affect people physiologically. For example, did you know scientists have found that the color blue reduces the metabolism? It's safe to say that blue would not be a good choice for a weight loss brand.

Color Meanings

Color meanings can vary around the world, so check out color meanings by culture to learn how colors are interpreted across the globe. This is a particularly important step for brands that operate internationally or may expand into different regions and countries in the future.

Following are high-level descriptions of popular brand color meanings in the United States and many Western cultures:

Red: Red is viewed as an energetic, optimistic, and exciting color. It's considered a stimulant, but it can also stimulate negative emotions such as aggression and a sense of danger.

Orange: Orange is an ambitious, fun, and happy color.

Yellow: Yellow is closely associated with the sun and is considered to be an optimistic, happy color that inspires hope and joy.

Pink: Pink is considered to be the most feminine color. Light pinks connote romance and youthfulness while bright pinks represent energy and sensuality.

Blue: Blue is the most popular color for both men and women, so it's always a safe choice. It evokes feelings of calm and trust. Bright blues are considered to be dynamic and exhilarating while light blues can be seen as cold and even uncaring.

Green: Green is most closely associated with nature, freshness, and good luck. However, it can also be associated with money, which can elicit feelings that run the gamut from envy and greed to success, stability, and generosity.

Purple: Purple represents royalty, wealth, and mystery. It's also the color least liked by men.

Brown: Brown is closely associated with the earth and viewed as a masculine color. It evokes feelings of stability and reliability.

White: White represents purity and cleanliness.

Black: Black is considered to be a color of wealth, power, and luxury, but it also represents mourning.

Based on the color meanings provided above, it's clear why so many bank brands use blue as a primary brand color (it represents trust) and UPS uses brown (it represents reliability). What colors best represent your brand? Stay tuned for Part 4 of this series where I'll talk about some great brand color examples to learn from.

For an even more in-depth analysis, read Art Therapy's Color Meanings and Symbolism article. And be sure to read parts 1 and 2 of the Brand Color Theory and Practice series by following the links below:

Image: stock.xchng, stock.xchng, Flickr

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